Activist fighting Chicago violence joins collective of leaders

Like any mother, Tamar Manasseh is determined to do anything to keep her children safe.   

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Tamar Manasseh is the founder and president of MASK

Like any mother, Tamar Manasseh is determined to do anything to keep her children safe. She created Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (MASK) "because I'm a mother of two black young adults and I didn't want my kids to be murdered," she said.

Her Judaism also informs her work. "Being Jewish teaches that something can always be done. It's incumbent to repair the cracks in the world that you see. Gun violence is a crack in Chicago, so I went to work repairing that particular crack," she said. 

Manasseh-who has previously spoken at a Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago/Jewish Community Relations Council event-was one of 10 Jewish women recently named to the 2020 Collective of the Jewish Women's Foundation of New York.

The international Collective is made up of "extraordinary women who lead organizations using their Jewish values and a gender lens to tackle some of the most intractable problems facing women and girls," according to the foundation. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Manasseh is expanding her organization's focus to serve children on Chicago's South Side. In addition to building a school/childcare center to provide education and hot meals for the children of essential workers making minimum wage, she is also connecting kids whose parents cannot help them with their schoolwork to a global study buddy network.

Even when the world seems unsteady, Manasseh is charging forward to ensure a brighter future for students who need help now and after the pandemic. "We're all feeling really helpless right now, but this is a way to get back to human contact and interaction," she said of her newest project. "It humanizes us all and lets us see into the world of people we would never interact with normally. It provides people with a greater sense of empathy for what other people are going through." 

Manasseh hopes that Jewish black girls draw inspiration from Jewish women who look like her.  As she puts it: "I hope that little Jewish black girls can see black Jewish women who they can grow to be, [and that] they learn that anywhere you can do a mitzvah, do it." 

For more information about Tamar Manasseh and MASK, visit ontheblock.org. For more information about JWFNY, visit jewishwomen.org.   



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